Two of the airlines in Nigeria managed by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Arik Air and Aero Contractors are among airlines in the country that have scaled down or suspended operations as a result of the rampaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has attacked the whole world like a thief in the night. Others include Air Peace, Dana Air, Azman and Max Air.
As a result of this development, effective today, Nigerian travelers will find it extremely difficult to move from one part of the country to the other. This decision is coming on the heels of the suspension of foreign airlines from arriving Nigeria just as most state governors across the country are closing both air, land and sea borders to enable them to contain the spread of the dreaded disease in their states. Arik Air management said it took the decision to mitigate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 to customers and staff. The airline said customers who have confirmed tickets were advised that they could still use their tickets when the airline resumes flight operations, but such tickets could also be modified at no extra charge.
Aero on the other hand also said its decision was to part of the efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic across Nigeria. The airline management said the suspension would become effective from midnight of March 26, 2020 (today) and would last for two weeks and subject to review as the events unfold. In a statement, the airline said it had taken care of all its future customer flight schedules and would endeavor to ensure that those who had booked flights would be taken to their destinations.
The airline, whose Chief Executive Officer, Captain Ado Sanusi was on Channels Television News At 10 programme to explain the rationale said Aero applauds the commendable efforts of the Federal Government to stop the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. He said, “We at Aero Contractors have decided to suspend flight services in support of initiatives/precaution to ensure that there is no community infection in the country, which is also in line with the decision of the Lagos State Government, which has prohibited any gathering that is more than 20 persons.”
Also speaking on the suspension of flight operations, the Chief Executive Officer of Arik Air, Captain Roy Ilegbodu, in a statement said: “The safety and well-being of our valued customers are paramount at this period of a health emergency. We implore everyone to keep safe and abide by all directives issued by governmental authorities. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this suspension may have caused our customers.” Ilegbodu however pledged that Arik Air would be available to support government emergency, humanitarian and charter flight requests during the period of suspension of air transport operation.
On his own part, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr. Bankole Bernard, said aviation sector in Nigeria has already lost about N180 billion. According to him, with the grounding of all international flights and the closure of borders by many countries, he said the downstream sector of the aviation industry would record more losses. The association said due to the downturn of business occasioned by the virus ravaging the world, 24, 000 travel agents may also lose their jobs.